Evangelize This

June 4, 2006

I have come to the realization that I am not very good at organized religion. It may be because of some underlying remnant of youthful rebellion. It is more likely that since I have been allowed the freedom to ask questions and learn about things that never made much sense – the dogma just doesn’t work as well. Following along blindly is no longer in the cards for me.

It was kind of like getting my first pair of eyeglasses; glasses that were long overdue. The shock of seeing things clearly was breathtaking, but even better was gaining the ability to see things that I had altogether missed. At first the glasses were a little uncomfortable but after awhile they became second nature. It is pretty interesting how it works that way. New eyeglasses brought clarity and definition, as did the new lenses through which I see a more inclusive picture of living in “the here and now of Jesus” and the “forever and always grace of God”. There is no way I will ever go back to the old way of seeing things.

At any rate, the conflict for me is in being a member of a larger overarching body of governance that either goes in the opposite direction of where I think we should be, drags it heals rather than moving forward, or at the least gives that appearance. I understand that this is superior to an “autonomous church system” that does not have any checks and balances for finance and administration. And agreeably the ability to accomplish our mission is far greater when united with that goal in mind. On the local level our goal of service and learning is solid and moving forward. Diversity and inclusiveness are issues we as a church are well aware of and support, and I think for me, that is where the rub comes in.

Last week I had the occasion to attend a gathering at the close of the annual conference for Northern Indiana. It was an opportunity to celebrate successes, showcase the youth, and create a vision for the future. It was not surprising that the majority of those in attendance were my age or older. Understandably, the focus was on growth since our numbers, like those of other mainline denominations, are thinning. What a wonderful opportunity to address the issues that divide and exclude. Instead there appeared to be an acceptance of the same crippling fundamentalism that I have come to mistrust and avoid. At one point we were told by a youth group member that the numbers of her generation that were evangelical Christians would dwindle from 15 to 5% over the next few years. Was I supposed to feel bad about that? Instead it just ruffled my feathers. What followed reminded me of the televangelists I see while channel surfing, moral issues to boot. Surely this is not the way we are going. Or is it?

Admittedly I am spoiled. I have a pastor and church family that encourage growth and learning. We are striving to exemplify grace in both our church and community. This is one time when I am far better to focus on the little picture, because sadly enough the big picture I saw did not look so good.

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5 Responses to “Evangelize This”

  1. mjd Says:

    Excellent…Evangelize This.
    You are so right about the tenor of the event that we attended. Our denomination as a national body does seem to be(or is)dragging their collective heels.

    Your conclusion to focus on what we do and how we learn and grow may be the only workable option at this time. And for us as we see clearly now, it is going to be a bright, sunshiny day.

  2. willi Says:

    I missed the evangelical reference when the young person cited the statistics. I found it interesting that many of the issues or concerns that were discussed were the issues of the religious right. I am sure these issues would concern young people anyway or would they?

  3. PT Says:

    Willi,

    Another excellent observation. I appreciate your bravery. I always wonder, when I’m at events like the one we attended, if there are others with the same disposition. It is refreshing to see there are. One clarification: your problem may not be with ALL organized religion. Our church is organized in such a way where hopefully growth and journey happen. I am glad your apart of it.

    SOCIAL!!!

    PT

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, how wonderful willi, I was feeling pretty alone in what I beleive. No, I am not very good at orgnized religion either. For now I will just keep looking up, because even if fellow church menbers are getting it wrong, I know that God hasn’t forgotten me. Surely I will run into at least one other person, who beleives at least some of what I blelieve. And if I don’t I will still do the right thing in my eyes.

  5. daddy d Says:

    There are so many different people and they have their point of view. The operational answer is to do the best you can, when you can, all the time you can, with as many people as you can. Give the grace than comes from having grace and knowing that you do have grace. Radical grace…that everyone has because it is given to everyone by God.


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